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How to Repurpose a White Paper as a Trade Journal Article

by | Sep 5, 2020 | White Papers, Content Marketing | 0 comments

Make your white paper investment go farther by repurposing its content as a trade journal article

White papers are among the most effective[i]  and valuable[ii] forms of marketing content. Unfortunately, they’re also among the more expensive forms to create.

To squeeze more return from their white paper investment, successful marketers frequently repurpose a white paper’s content in other forms.

You can too.

Getting maximum return from your white paper investment

Take that valuable, useful information you’ve crammed into your new white paper and repurpose it in smaller pieces of content. All that data you’ve collected, all the logical arguments you’ve carefully constructed in your white paper can be repackaged—quickly and easily—to create:

  • A series of blog posts or tweets
  • A press release
  • A landing page
  • A slide deck
  • An infographic
  • An article for a trade journal or your website
  • And more…

My colleague Gordon Graham (ThatWhitePaperGuy.com) has already devoted a series of articles to repurposing white papers into several of the formats listed above. So, I’ve chosen to focus on one topic he didn’t cover: repurposing a white paper as a feature article for a trade publication or your website.

Things to consider when targeting a trade journal

If you want to repurpose a white paper as an article for placement in a trade journal or industry portal, you should do some research and make inquiries before you publish your white paper.

Read the editorial guidelines of the publications you’re targeting.

Many want only original material that hasn’t appeared anywhere else. If that’s the case, you’ll need to delay publishing your white paper until after the issue containing your extracted article has appeared.

Many trade pubs also prohibit promotional or ‘product-centric’ content in submissions that are not paid advertising. Thus, a backgrounder-style white paper that focuses on the features and benefits of a specific product may not be acceptable.

A backgrounder-style white paper
A backgrounder white paper

Such publishers are more likely to accept an article fashioned from a problem/solution white paper addressing a nagging industry problem, or a numbered list white paper describing a set of industry best practices or product-agnostic recommendations.

Also, consider the contact box at the end of the article. You’ll want to provide a link where readers can request or download your full white paper. Be sure that’s allowed.

Contact publishers during your white paper’s development, so you can get your article on their calendar early. That will reduce the delay in publishing your white paper.

Cutting your white paper to article length

What is the maximum word count your publication will allow in a feature article? For many, it will be in the range of 1000 to 2000 words. Almost any white paper will need to be trimmed to fit such limits. Decide if it is feasible to cut the content to that length.

This is another reason a backgrounder may be a poor choice for repurposing as an article, even on your website. A backgrounder is a deep dive into a product or technology. They tend to be longer than those in problem/solution and numbered list format. Thus, they’re more difficult to repurpose as a single article. Normally, it’s easier and more effective to repurpose a backgrounder in other forms, such as a slide deck or a series of blog posts.

Don’t post your full white paper text as a web page

I’ve had clients who publish white papers in their entirety on the company blog for SEO purposes. They then place download links to the PDF version every other screen or so.

I recommend against this practice.

Web visitors are goal-oriented. They want to find what they’re looking for and quickly move on. Even the shortest of white papers—if they truly merit the title ‘white paper’—are long enough that most readers will not want to read them in their entirety while they’re in search mode.

I believe it’s better to shorten a white paper to repurpose it as an article, regardless of where it will be published. You’ll still end up with content that’s long enough and dense enough to establish authority with search engines. You’ll still be able to intersperse the text with download offers for the white paper. And you’re less likely to discourage impatient readers, who will then click away without downloading.

Still want Google to index your entire white paper? Simply add the proper metadata to your PDF.

How to repurpose a problem/solution white paper as an article

While reducing your white paper to article length, keep in mind that you’ll be offering the full white paper as a download. In other words, you don’t need to cover everything that’s in the white paper. You need to find places to make cuts.

A problem/solution-style white paper
A problem/solution white paper

A classic problem/solution white paper will generally include the following sections:

  1. Executive summary
  2. The problem
  3. Legacy solutions
  4. A new, better solution
  5. Case studies
  6. Buyer’s guide
  7. About the company
  8. Call to action

The parts you’ll keep

The second, third and fourth parts of the formula above represent the bulk of your story. The problem section identifies a nagging industry problem is and why it must be addressed. The legacy solutions section describes how the problem has been addressed in the past and why those solutions are no longer adequate. The third section introduces a new, better solution to the problem and why it is needed now.

You may only be able to trim a small amount of fat from these three sections. Most of that will likely come from the legacy solutions section.

The places you’ll do most of your trimming

The executive summary is a brief overview of the white paper’s content. For an article, you can safely eliminate it. The problem section should provide a sufficient lead into the story.

A best practice for the ‘new, better solution section’ is to describe your solution generically—in a product-agnostic manner—to minimize the perception of bias. The case studies (or ‘use cases’) then, are where you use your own product to give examples of how your new generic solution can be implemented. Most good white papers contain one or two, possibly as many as three short case studies.

In reducing your white paper to article length, trim any fat you can from the strongest case study. Eliminate the others. Remember, you’ll be offering your full white paper as a download. Readers will be able to find out more about your product there. Plus, your white paper’s call to action will lead them to additional information on your product. In your repurposed article, you just want to pique your target readers’ interest enough to get them to download the complete white paper.

The buyer’s guide is a list of features and qualities to look for when choosing a specific solution. You’re handing the target reader a specification. Naturally, that specification is written in a way that tilts the playing field in favor of your product or service. Condense this section to a set of bullet points that might be set as a sidebar in your article.

For a trade journal, reduce your white paper’s ‘about the company’ blurb to fit the contact box at the end of the article. If the article is destined for your website, you can eliminate the ‘about’ blurb; your ‘about us’ page has you covered.

Finally, you’ll replace the call to action of your white paper with an invitation to download the full white paper. That’s your primary objective for the article. Don’t include any other offers. Remember: online readers are in a hurry. Don’t confuse the issue for them. If you do, you’ll likely hurt your conversion rate.

How to repurpose a numbered list white paper as an article

A numbered-list-style white paper
A numbered list white paper

A ‘numbered list’ white paper discusses a set of points on a given topic. Each point is given a number. As mentioned earlier, these white papers often cover sets of best practices or recommendations.

Hence, the titles of numbered lists normally include a number and often begin with phrases like:

  • 7 Best Practices for…
  • The 8 Rules of…
  • 5 Things to Consider Before…
  • 10 Common Mistakes that…
  • 6 Things You Need to Know About…

As with the problem/solution, when you reduce a numbered list white paper to an article, you’re going to eliminate the executive summary. In this case, however, you might need to replace it with a brief introduction mentioning that the article is an extract from your new white paper.

Once again, you’ll also reduce the About Us section, and you’ll offer the full white paper for download as your only call to action.

Then, you’re going to reduce each of the numbered discussion sections as much as you need, without obscuring the points you’re trying to make. You may have to eliminate a few examples and secondary points. Just get each numbered section as concise and to the point as possible.

In your call to action, remind readers that the article is an extract from your latest white paper. Mention again that readers will find a more thorough discussion and additional examples when they download the full white paper.

Takeaway Points

  • You can gain greater ROI from a white paper by repurposing its content in other forms
  • Popular content forms for repurposing white paper material include:
    • Articles
    • Blog Posts
    • Tweets
    • Press releases
    • Slide decks
    • Infographics
  • The best white paper forms for repurposing as articles for trade journals and the web are:
    • Problem/solution
    • Numbered list
  • Backgrounder white papers tend to be:
    • Too long to be reduced to standard article length
    • Too product-oriented for publication in most trade journals
    • Best repurposed as a slide deck or series of blog posts
  • To repurpose a white paper as an article:
    • Eliminate sections (e.g., exec summary) that are unnecessary to the article format
    • Reduce the number of examples and case studies
    • Trim the vital sections to make them as concise as possible
    • Offer the full version of your white paper for download as your call to action

Next Steps

Have an idea for a new white paper you’d like to get going? Contact CopyEngineer at info@copyengineer.com. I can also help you repurpose your white paper’s content into other forms, many of which you can use to you promote your white paper and further improve your ROI.

Plus, I have experience working in the opposite direction. In some cases, I can take an existing article and expand it into a white paper. Contact me for more information.


[i]   Eccolo Media 2008-2012 B2B Technology Collateral Surveys, www.eccolomedia.com.

[ii]   2019 Smart Marketing for Engineers, Trew Marketing and IEEE GlobalSpec, November 2018.

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